Penetration Test:  Cisco's driving new markets and we all go along for the ride.

With all the M&A that Cisco Systems has gone through over the past decade or so, their product lines have penetrated into areas that use networking in ways that are unexpected and exciting to watch.  As the new decade begins to unfold, let's see what patterns emerge that point to Cisco's long-term strategies.

It's no secret that the center of Cisco's business development strategy is M&A (mergers & acquisitions). Over the past decade, 2000-2009, they acquired 89 firms, (two of which they already had majority control over) across both the enterprise and consumer markets. From a high of 23 in 2000, to the low the following year of just 2, it would seem that Cisco's best years for M&A was 2004 to 2007, also some of the best years for the American economy and commercial lending. Although (in no particular order,) Linksys, WebEx, Scientific Atlanta, and IronPort are generally considered to be among the most significant and best known, they cannot be taken in isolation. Cisco's cast a wide net, and while it falls in some familiar places, some are not so expected.


In this blog post written by Sam Diaz over on ZDNet, he talks about Cisco focusing on the core router business, and there's no disputing that networking will always be at the center of Cisco's corporate identity. But they are also pushing the network outward, expanding the definition of what is a network, and what can be attached to it as well as what can be transported over it and how fast. Cisco lists what markets they anticipate their purchases will affect, I did an (admittedly) rudimentary analysis from a technological perspective, trying to categorize purchases from a functional perspective.


I broke out into two categories at first: Enterprise and consumer. I then broke each of those into main product lines. If you had any doubts, let me lay them to rest now: Networking was the biggest category, in everything ranging from core hardware and software to network security to access control and authentication. The next tier down is more enterprise-centric, with VPNs, SANs, and content management and delivery. (I should mention here that 'tier' only refers to my rankings, and has no bearing on a firm or product's actual product or success.) It's among the 'uniques' (those product lines not related to existing core businesses or to each other.,) that the future begins to look a little more interesting. Here's my breakout notes. Each line represents a product category distinctive enough to warrant delineation. One or more 'X's in the second column indicate repeat acquisitions, and the number of same.

Enterprise

 
   

Wireless LAN/WAN

XX

VOIP (wireless, open-source)

X

Network management (software/hardware)

XXX

Streaming Media (hard/software)

X

Content Delivery

XXX

Mobile wireless (software)

 

IP SAN

XXX

VPN (IPSEC,SSL)

XX

Switches

XXX

Fiber devices (WAN/MAN)

X

IDS

XX

IOS

 

Bandwidth Aggregation

 

Teleconferencing

X

Routing Hardware/Software

XXXXXX

Authentication/Access Control

XXX

Service Management

X

DDOS prevention

 

Content (security)

 

Deep Packet Inspection

 

Security

XXXXX

Adaptive Display Signage

 

Application Development

X

AVR (Automated Voice Reception)

X

Mobile Broadband

X

Collaboration

XX

   

Consumer

 
   

Wireless

 

Set-top Boxes

X

Networked Consumer Electronics

X

VOIP

 

Social Networking

 

Home Network Management

 

Okay, time to crank up my Liquid Crystal ball: Given that a full 70% of the American economy is consumer-driven, (as will be much of the world's I suspect,) Cisco's continued push into that sector is no shock. Cisco has several philosophies that are apparent, but going forward, I suspect that the most focus will be put on extending and expanding the reach of the network across the landscape. More networked devices = more network, and diversifying the endpoints will drive that into the future. Looking around my living room, I see a Scientific Atlanta cable box, and an SA cable modem doing blinkenlights at me. Seems the future may be here sooner than we thought?

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